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11/05/08 1:03 PM EST

Twins hope to add pop to strong lineup

Club seeking right-handed power bat to improve young offense

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins scored 829 runs in 2008, the third highest single-season total in franchise history. The club's batting average ranked in the top five in the Majors as did its number of RBIs, hits and triples.

But while the Twins' lineup last season was one of the most productive ever for the club, hitting coach Joe Vavra believes that it was missing one key thing -- a right-handed power bat.

"If we could have gotten somebody in there to protect our Nos. 3 and 4 hitters from the right side, that would have been ideal," Vavra said on Tuesday from his home near Menominee, Wis. "I think Jason Kubel did a nice job from the left side hitting in that fifth spot, but we would like to get somebody from the right side that puts up some power numbers. I think that's what is on the wish list for a lot of people right now."

As of the first week in November, the expectation is that the Twins will return virtually the same lineup in 2009 as the one that brought them within one game of the playoffs this past season. For Vavra, that's just fine by him, as he's not campaigning for any drastic changes.

"I love the potential of that group," Vavra said of his 2008 lineup, one of the youngest in the Majors.

Still, there are a few holes for the Twins to address this winter. With the free agency period now under way and the trade market starting to heat up, the Twins have already begun exploring ways to improve their offense for next season. And like Vavra, many other people within the organization believe it means trying to add that right-handed power bat.

So just where might the Twins be looking to add some additional pop to their lineup?

The most likely choice appears to be at third base, a position that has been largely unsettled for the Twins in recent years.

Twins general manager Bill Smith has acknowledged that the infield is an area that the organization needs to address this offseason, specifically the left side. Along with third base remaining unsettled, the club currently has an opening at shortstop as well.

Although Vavra believes that the club has some quality internal options for third base, including Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris, he recognizes that third base could be an area where the team might be able to upgrade offensively. Yet the hitting coach didn't want to say it's the only way that power could be added to the lineup.

"I don't know if it has to be a right-handed hitter at third base, but it would be nice to put a right-handed bat in that lineup that would give us a little more balance," Vavra said. "Brian Buscher did a nice job for us at third last year. I don't know which way we are going to go in terms of third base, but there is a need for right-handed power, no doubt."

Smith showed last offseason -- his first as the club's GM -- that he was not afraid to make significant changes to the roster to fulfill a need. That included completing a six-player trade with the Rays to bring outfielder Delmon Young to Minnesota in an attempt to add offense.

Hot Stove
But even if the changes for the Twins are minimal this winter, Vavra is optimistic about the upcoming season for his offense.

Vavra pointed out that the Twins had a successful 2008 season with a relatively young and inexperienced lineup. His hope is that those young hitters will continue to build upon what they learned this past year. Vavra mentioned Carlos Gomez as one example of a hitter in that lineup who still has a lot of room to grow and improve in '09.

"I anticipate his at-bats being better and better," Vavra said of Gomez. "That's just a work in progress with him. He's a tremendous talent and I just love to project where he will be in a couple years and what numbers he can put up."

As for Young, his numbers didn't quite live up to expectations this past season -- particularly his power numbers -- and he has already been mentioned in trade rumors this fall. Vavra believes that Young still has a lot of work to do to become the player he can be, yet the hitting coach saw glimpses of that player in '08.

"Delmon's got power potential, average potential and extra-base potential. It's all there," Vavra said. "It's going to be up to him to discipline himself better than he probably did this year."

And while the hope is to bring in some additional power for the lineup from outside the organization, Vavra said he's also intrigued to see what a healthy Michael Cuddyer could bring to the lineup in terms of production and power.

"It would be nice to see what kind of numbers we could have with him in there," Vavra said. "Michael's got the maturity that is necessary to be in the middle of that lineup and to make a big difference there."

The Twins may be looking to add power and improve upon their American League low 111 home runs in '08, but the team has built its lineup in recent years around speed and situational hitting. So no matter what changes might take place over the coming months, Vavra doesn't expect the Twins' offensive philosophy to change much in 2009.

"I can foresee a little bit more in the power numbers for the ballclub, but I don't think it will be too alarming of a difference," Vavra said. "Objectively, the goal for us would be to keep the ball in the alleys and let's get extra base hits that way. We can piecemeal a run or two together when we have to and we'll utilize our speed. That's kind of the way [manager Ron Gardenhire] would like to have this club be."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.